The Snack Shack Blues

On the illusions of class mobility

Emily Withnall
Gay Mag
Published in
21 min readMar 31, 2020

--

Illustration by Carmen Johns

InIn 1984, on the edge of Highway 518, my family lived in a bright blue building with neon yellow letters looping across the front to announce its name: Snack Shack. Tourists whipped by, winding up the pass to Taos for skiing, and locals took the low road to Peñasco, a town of roughly one thousand people at the base of 10,000 foot peaks.

My parents paid $15 a month for rent.

The Snack Shack was what remained of an old set for the 1977 motorcycle movie, Sidewinder. The film crew had slapped paint on an old, crumbling structure that was half adobe and half cinder blocks. It hadn’t been lived in for decades. The Snack Shack had one main room with one shared bed and a woodstove. There were two other tiny rooms, but one had partially cratered into a mess of bricks. The usable side room was our kitchen. My dad ran a gas line out of the wall and connected it to a small propane tank which fueled our two burner stove. He hauled water from neighbors’ houses and stored it in jugs. We had an outhouse down by the acequia, but no way to bathe. Sometimes we took bucket baths, but mostly we relied on once-a-week trips to our neighbor Richard’s house. He lived two miles down a dirt road on the edge of a forest. My earliest memory is of the colorful imitation wicker basket filled with clean towels. Bath day.

--

--

Emily Withnall
Gay Mag

I teach and write in Missoula, Montana. I am working on a book about domestic violence and hydraulic fracturing. Find more of my writing at emilywithnall.com